Fredericksburg’s Sunken Road stretched before me, empty, covered in still-falling snow. On the hillside to my left, tall stalks of yellow grass swayed in the wind, although the heavy confetti of snowflakes brought with it a heavy hush. The battlefield felt not just barren but forsaken.
So different this day than it was on December 13, 1862. Quiet. Lonely. Atop the heights, cannon belched only small mouthfuls of drifting snow.
As I walked from one end of the Sunken Road toward the other, a single set of bootprints came up from the direction of the parking lot, accompanied by a set of small pawprints. The parallel tracks veered from wayside sign to the next, the human apparently reading each one. I could see where snow had been wiped away, although enough had already fallen to re-obscure each panel.
Down the Sunken Road, around the Innis House and the Kirkland monument, and even up to the crest of Marye’s Heights—the dog walker made the entire circuit. I crossed paths with another dog walker, too—or perhaps the same one making a second loop—but otherwise the battlefield remained deserted.
Elsewhere in the southeast, the winter storm caused a Saturday’s full of apoplexy. For me, there on the battlefield, it proved to be one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever spent—in any season—on hallowed ground.